Tag Archives | Science Fiction

Kite Boy, Hell Yeah

The 1957 movie The Invisible Boy – a sort-of sequel to 1956’s better-known Forbidden Planet – is available in its entirety on the Internet Archive (حفظه الله) to view for free. (Wait, how can it be a sequel when it obviously takes place centuries earlier? Well, the explanation is gestured at quickly, in passing; let your attention wander for a minute and you’ll miss it.)

This film can’t seem to decide whether it’s a drama or a comedy. Most of the time it’s a drama, indeed sometimes quite a dark one with, e.g., threats of death by slow torture for the child protagonist. But the unfazed attitude of the adults to Timmie’s accomplishments is bizarre and hilarious. This ten-year-old boy has just assembled, in a few minutes, a mysterious disassembled robot whose assembly has baffled multiple scientists? Ho-hum, go away, kid. And now he’s managed to make himself invisible? What an annoying prank; he’d better be visible by morning if he wants any breakfast! (No curiosity as to how he’s done either of these things.) And now the robot is violently interfering with the father’s attempts to discipline Timmie? Ha ha, oh well, here Timmie, have an apple. And one for you too, robot guy. (Because everyone knows robots love apples.)

Anyway, it’s not the classic that Forbidden Planet is, but it’s quite enjoyable. And some of the actors have fascinating faces.


Plato, Space Ranger

A new episode of my YouTube channel is up! This one focuses on the connection between philosophical thought experiments (from Plato’s Ring of Gyges to Judith Jarvis Thomson’s defense of abortion) and science-fiction (and fantasy) literature.

In related news, a combination of unexpected expenses (e.g., high medical co-pays for kidney stone surgeries, plus my car’s imminent need to have its electrical system serviced) and my reduced summer salary means that any support via my PayPal or Patreon would be especially timely and welcome.


Be Still My Beating Suit

One thing that every adaptation of Dune seems to get wrong: throughout the book series, the Fremen are always described as wearing robes covering their stillsuits. And a passage in God Emperor of Dune makes clear that “covering” means completely covering:

The grey slick of a stillsuit could be seen underneath, exposed to sunlight which no real Fremen would ever have let touch his stillsuit that way.

In the 1984 adaptation, the Fremen wore no robes at all. In the 2000 adaptation, they usually wore robes, but seldom entirely covering their stillsuits. The upcoming 2020 adaptation looks like we’re getting exposed stillsuits once again.


Luke Island Blues

Rian Johnson has been either praised or blame, according to taste, for subverting, in The Last Jedi, the expectations raised by J. J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens.

In some respects the description is accurate – for example, in regard to Rey’s parentage, with Johnson subverting Abrams, and Abrams subsequently counter-subverting Johnson (like the humorous alternating-teacups-and-battlefleets round-robin mutual-hostility story that used to hang on the wall in the Chapel Hill Philosophy Department, and which I wish I could find online).

But one aspect that has been viewed as a subversion that I think is no such thing is Johnson’s treatment of Luke Skywalker. It wasn’t Johnson’s decision to have Luke hiding on a distant planet while the First Order was rising, his sister was fighting a desperate battle against it, and his nephew and former pupil was stalking around as a Vader wannabe. That was what Abrams established in TFA. If Rey had shown up and told Luke his sister and the galaxy needed him, and he had immediately replied, “oh, then I guess I’ll end my hermit-like existence and go fight the baddies,” it would have rendered inexplicable his not doing so long before Rey’s arrival.

The opening of TLJ¸ with Luke tossing the lightsabre over his shoulder and walking away, wasn’t a subversion of the final scene of TFA; it was pretty much the only continuation that made sense. If you wanted a more active role for Luke, blame Abrams, not Johnson.


Thursday’s Child

Theory: the character of Aurra Sing (as she appears in The Clone Wars, not as she appears in The Phantom Menace) was inspired by Paulina Porizkova’s character in Thursday.


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